Thursday, April 17, 2014

Eustatius to Samana, DR

2014 04 17
London, ON

It was a quiet day and night out of St Eustatius, us motoring in no wind.  There were no problems with the diesel nor have there been any since the Antiguan departure.

Dawn saw us coming up on the BVIs.  Our intention was to motor straight through this charter boat haven, hopefully managing to avoid contact with any errant credit card captains.  The country is a small one and an hour of concerted motoring saw us in and out of the closely grouped mountain tops that comprise this Caribbean nation.

Since leaving Antigua we had been augmenting our daily download of the grib weather files from sailmail by listening to Chris Parker who maintains a daily Monday to Saturday voice weather forecast. 

Our plan had been to sail from BVIs to Turks and Caicos and then run up the east side of the Bahamas before cutting west to find Florida.  The BVI gribs suggested this was a bad idea with strong adverse wind and huge waves due to hit Turks and Caicos just about the time we would.  Chris Parker's forecast supported our assessment as did the NAVTEX broadcast out of Puerto RIco.  

Reluctant to give up a very good plan we hedged our bets.  Leaving BVIs we sailed more west that we otherwise would have making distance along the north coast of Puerto Rico.  The forecast did not improve so it was obvious that our plan was dead.  Time for a new plan.

Already halfway across Puerto Rico we decided to commit to  the Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic.  We had to cross the Mona Passage, a reputedly hazardous body of water separating the islands of PR and DR and if all  went well we would be into safe waters of Samana the night before the strong northerly winds and waves would hit.

The Mona Passage was a non event.  Luck was with us and with no weather briefing at all we hit the perfect day for a crossing.  Sundown saw us motoring into the bay in front of the town of Samana.  Our hook was down and we were enjoying a cockpit cocktail before dark settled like a blanket around us.  

It would be three days before we stuck our nose out of the Bay.

Seems Like Bad News... But on the Other Hand...

 March 30, 2014

Lake Worth Inlet, Florida

Antigua did not allow much room for relaxation.  Full of boat repairs, lack of ready built materials or modern equipment hampered our efforts to contract repairs. Much of our time was spent in project management: finding materials, scheduling the various trades, monitoring work being done.  We considered ourselves to be very lucky to have found such experienced workmen and the cost of the job was no more than it would have been in North America. 

This "seems like bad news but on the other hand..." phenomenon followed us all the way to Ontario from Antigua.

The day after repairs were completed to Meredith we reluctantly made our farewells to Stephen and Nancy who travel on Fairwyn, a 52 year old wooden sailboat and made our departure.  Leaving Jolly Harbour we were met midway by a dinghy carrying Holly and Alan from the Australian boat "Summerwind".  Holly had made cranberry scones and they were still warm.  Needless to say the scones did not survive to the end of the exit channel.

Motorsailing in nonexistent winds our diesel ran only fitfully.  Somehow we had developed an air leak in the fuel system.  Diesels do not run with air in the fuel system so every couple of hours the engine would quit and I would have to bleed a hot diesel so we could get underway.  

On one such stoppage I also found a massive engine oil leak caused when an oil filter gasket tore and failed to seal against the engine.  Had the engine not quit due to the air leak we would have missed the oil leak.  The oil leak would have been fatal had it not been found in time.  Our Beta diesel has an oil pressure alarm and shutoff designed to save the diesel in such circumstances but I hate to rely on mechanical systems.

Searching for the air leak I dropped a one of a kind retaining bolt, the one that holds the top on the fuel filter, into the bilge.  The bilge which had just had all that engine oil spewed into it.  The part was brass so the magnetic pickup did not work.  The oil rendered the liquid in the bilge worse than opaque.

Connie and I spent eight frustrating hours working together to find the darn bolt in our deep almost inaccessible bilge.  The boat sailed itself during this period as we were both deep in the bilge, one in the lazarette and one over the diesel while we disassembled the drive shaft, removed the bilge pump and the hoses that reside in the bilge and scooped a year's worth of oily muck out of that deep, dark, uncooperative, murky bilge.  

The part was found and the air leak in the fuel system was also found.  We had been sailing at 2 knots for almost a full day out of Antigua except for a few hours when the diesel ran.  This put us close to the island of Eustatius and we put in to the mooring field at Orangestaadt for rest and relaxation.  Also for some more lubricating oil, as we had used all of ours due to the leak.

Eustatius was a a treat.  Orangestaadt was a lovely polite clean orderly town that stocked absolutely no lube oil for diesel engines, at least none that we could find.  Finally we asked local fishermen who very concernedly sold us a lot of diesel oil which had to be decanted from one of their fifty gallon drums. 

Eustatius is an island we would never have visited had it not been for the air and oil leaks.

What a lovely place.  

A night's sleep on the mooring ball and it was dinghy on deck and us away still heading for Florida at full speed.  Or so we thought.